McHenry County residents had a lot to do in 2013. In a year full of great theater, music, comedy and events that have become a tradition for area families, there was plenty to see and do. For every event that made our list of the Top 5 local entertainment stories of the year, there are a dozen more that could have made the cut, such as the debut of the first Haunted Square in Woodstock or the opening of The Other Side non-alcoholic club in Crystal Lake.
In our list of five, we highlight the events that brought McHenry County to the national stage, with a visit by Rihanna and appearances by area residents on two national television shows, the triumphs, such as community efforts to save the McHenry Outdoor Theater and the TownSquare Players, and the farewells, as Trail of History ended after 25 years.
With so much local talent, McHenry County was a fun place to be in 2013.
[Film crews discover McHenry County]
Add a couple more shows to McHenry County's list of cameos.
Television film crews descended upon at least two locales in 2013, bringing more
prominence to an area already known for the 1993 hit "Groundhog Day" filmed on
the Woodstock Square.
In April, the popular Food Network show "Restaurant: Impossible," descended upon
Angelo's Restaurant on the Woodstock Square. As part of the show, Chef Robert
Irvine is given two days and $10,000 to turn around failing restaurants. The result
aired in June, with the restaurant featuring more modern decor and new menus.
October brought crews from the NBC hit drama "Chicago Fire" to the Illinois Railway
Museum in Union. Producers targeted the museum as an ideal spot for one of the
series' biggest accident scenes, including a train derailment and crash into a
The filming, which took four days, used about 150 extras recruited from the area.
The scene aired as part of "Chicago Fire's" seventh episode of the current season.
The series based on the firefighters and drama surrounding the fictitious Chicago
Firehouse 51 is in its second season.
[Community votes to save McHenry Outdoor Theater]
It was touch-and-go for awhile, but community support and a Honda initiative saved
the McHenry Outdoor Theater in 2013.
The movie industry's forced switch from 35 mm film to digital – a format cheaper for
studios and distributors – threatened to close the theater in 2013. The theater's
owners had been trying to find a way to afford the update to the theater's equipment,
but a Kickstarter campaign to raise $130,000 fell short.
Honda surprised theater owner Scott Dehn in September with the news that his
theater had won one of five digital projectors being given away through the
company's "Project Drive-In." The campaign was Honda's attempt to help preserve
what the company called an "Iconic part of American car culture."
Community votes resulted in McHenry's selection.
"I just fell down to my knees and broke down for a little bit," Dehn said when Honda
announced the win during an on-camera interview with a crew Dehn had been told
was from a film-related website. "It was pretty emotional."
[Rihanna visits Barrington High School]
She was a bit late, but Rihanna came to Barrington High School.
The celebrity singer stopped by in March on her way to a concert at the United
Center in Chicago after the school's video production class won a contest she hosted
The Rihanna Bright Like a Diamond contest challenged students to make a video that
included a "giving back to your community [and world] message."
Jeff Doles' class beat out 52 other submissions from throughout the country for the
ultimate prize: a Rihanna visit. Students, teachers and parents awaited the celebrity,
set for a 1 p.m. appearance March 22, all afternoon in the gymnasium. Rihanna
didn't appear until about 5:30 p.m., tweeting that Chicago traffic was the cause of her
She posed for photos with volunteers from each of the groups featured in the video,
including Best Buddies, a group that works to better the lives of people with
disabilities; Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society group; and the Brother's
Keeper Club, which works to rebuild with Native Americans a bridge burned years
[TownSquare Players hosts "Sunday in the Square on Stage" after turbulent year]
TownSquare Players might have seen better years in its 45 years as McHenry
County's oldest active theater group, but the year was a testament to the group's
Faced with fewer ticket sales and money stolen from the group's account,
TownSquare Players put on the first "Sunday in the Square on Stage." The festival
served as both a fundraiser and a way to raise awareness of theater.
It brought together the area's major theater groups as well as numerous facets of
the county, such as magicians, storytellers, student theater groups and musicians.
The idea was to spread a shared love of live theater to others who don't know what
McHenry County has to offer.
With its performance of "The Wedding Singer" scheduled for March at the Woodstock
Opera House, TownSquare Players continues to endure.
[Trail of History ends after 25 years]
It was both a 25th anniversary celebration and a good-bye for the Trail of History.
Organizers announced last October's Trail of History was the event's final year.
Hosted by the McHenry County Conservation District at Glacial Park in Ringwood, the
weekend-long event served as a living history interpretive event that demonstrates
life as it was from 1670 to 1850 in the former Northwest Territory.
Relying on more than 250 volunteers in more than 150 encampments to demonstrate
the crafts and trades from early settler days, it has drawn thousands of visitors over
Because of time and money restraints, as well as land changes at Glacial Park, the
district's board of trustees decided not to host the event next year. Organizers
stressed the district would continue to host programs on a smaller scale in the future
that allow visitors to connect with both history and the land.
The district offers numerous special events and nature hikes, as well as more than
300 camps and public programs.